Las Vegas: Darrell Russell qualifying notes

Russell 11th despite trails and tribulations. LAS VEGAS (April 6) -- Top Fuel driver Darrell Russell has Joe Amato's Bilstein Engine Flush dragster comfortably in the field of the third annual SummitRacing.com Nationals in the 11th position. In...

Russell 11th despite trails and tribulations.

LAS VEGAS (April 6) -- Top Fuel driver Darrell Russell has Joe Amato's Bilstein Engine Flush dragster comfortably in the field of the third annual SummitRacing.com Nationals in the 11th position. In light of the events of the past few days, it's amazing the team managed just to put a car on the race track.

The team's saga started three weeks ago at the conclusion of the last stop on the POWERade Drag Racing Tour in Gainesville, Fla., when Amato hired respected tuner Wayne Dupuy to assist longtime co-crew chiefs Jimmy Walsh and Bob Bauer. Unfortunately, after nearly three weeks of working together, a consensus of how to tune the car was never reached, so Dupuy dismissed Walsh and Bauer last Tuesday after a test session in Houston.

At the same time, the rest of the crew was traveling to Las Vegas for the event when both rear axles on the team's transporter broke, leaving them stranded outside of Phoenix. Several hours later, a 350-ton crane and two industrial forklifts were employed to load the entire transporter on a flatbed hauler, which then moved the entire rig to Las Vegas where another crane and forklift placed the equipment in the team's pit spot. While this process was underway, four of the remaining six crewmen informed Dupuy they wished to resign.

A massive last-minute search for replacement crew personnel ensued and the assembled group of fill-ins worked throughout the night to prepare the car for competition. Remarkably, the team made two qualifying attempts Friday, the best of which was a labored 4.834 at 289.07 mph, which slotted the team in 11th place with two rounds of qualifying remaining.

"I'm pretty amazed at the shear will and determination of Wayne Dupuy and this team," Russell said. "Crew changes happen in racing from time to time but to have all of this happen at the same time would crush some people. Not Wayne. He did enough to get us in the field and he's already working on finding ways to make us quicker and faster on Saturday.

"We didn't make great runs yesterday; we all know that. But the fact we even made it up to the line for Round 1 says a lot about the people involved with Joe Amato Racing. I'm very proud to be a part of this organization and I'm confident we'll be running up front very soon."

ESPN2 will present the SummitRacing.com Nationals entirely in primetime. Qualifying highlights will air from 6-8:30 p.m. (Mountain) today with the elimination rounds broadcast from 8-10 p.m. (Mountain) tomorrow. A repeat showing of the elimination rounds follows from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. (Mountain), on Tuesday, April 9.

-jar-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Joe Amato